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How many sheep producers use dogs

Debbie Meier

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There is a sheep shearer to the north of us that is in the market for a pup or young dog, his current one is getting age on her and he knows he best get the next one going, he has 300 ewes himself. He does not breed but rather watches around for his next dog. Last spring he called to see if we had anything and again yesterday, as luck would have it I know of someone that has told me that they have some nice pups and also started dogs, they raise commercial sheep are all called often to do set out at trials.


Anyway, during the phone conversation with the sheep shearer I asked how many of his customers use dogs, he said about 4, the next question was how many customers, about 100. So we are talking 4% of sheep producers in a area close to us, I wonder if that percentage is about the norm, high or low when compared to the national average. I think that his perspective would be different then a sheep shearer that does not use dogs, as they may be more apt to count producers that have dogs as ones that use them. In this case we were talking about producers that were truely using their dogs in the day to day operation.


He also talked about how difficult it was getting to be to find good dogs in his/our area, he said that there used to be a couple of good breeders that trained good working dogs and that also trialed but they have since retired or passed away and no one has picked up where they left off. It's not important to him that the dog breeder raises sheep from a production standpoint but rather that they understand how a dog is used in practical work.


Another thing that we talked about was what he expected out of a dog, he said nothing special, that he did not need anything fancy, just something that would ride along in the truck, stay by his side minding it's own business when he does not need it, hold a gate, work alleys and pens and be able to go out a mile to gather the sheep....yeah...nothing special....


We also discussed why more of his customers do not use dogs, he said that they don't need them and have plenty of help. He said that he needs a dog because he is alone and has no other help.

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My shearer reports a little higher stats on dog use, but he has Jack Knox and myself as clients so hein in dog circles. Few of the producers I know use a dog. Many years ago I got a wonderful dog from a local sheep producer. He said she was the best dog he had ever had, but he didn't know how to work her nor did he want to learn. He had her chained near his sheep and she often bit ears of sheep from the end of her chain.


She truely was a grand bitch too!


I hear often from producers who say they need help but won't spend the money for a good dog, nor bother training any dog they have. My shearer could use a good dog, but he hasn't bothered yet. His wife has a rescue that helps her a little but isn't a terrific worker.

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The article below is about one of the sheep shearers customers, also a club member of ours as of last year, was instrumental in having the sheepdog trial and training/handling demos at the Iowa Sheep & Wool Festival along with using dogs daily, Peg and Sue, and would not be without them.



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